At the start of the season, it appeared Penrith were the front runners for Premiership glory.
Whilst Melbourne were struggling to get to grips with life after Cameron Smith, Penrith were winning game after game at the top of the table.
However, the masses of injuries suffered by the Panthers derailed their momentum to the point at which they sacrificed command of the table to the Melbourne Storm along with that the favourites tag.
That said, the Panthers remained second favourites and many believed they were headed to the Grand Final for the second season in a row in a rematch of last year’s decider against the Storm.
However, a shock defeat to South Sydney in the opening weekend of the play-offs have left them with no room to lose another game as they take on Paramatta in a knock out tie this weekend. Victory would see them meet Melbourne in the semi-finals meaning their route to the final has gotten much more difficult leaving many people confident that the Panthers won’t get anywhere near the Premiership trophy in 2021.
For a side who have promised so much for so many years, plenty of rugby league fans feel disappointed by this turn of events and have begun questioning the credentials of Head Coach Ivan Cleary who has taken charge of 367 NRL games – the second most in the competition’s history to not yield a Premiership. But in an interview with Fox League his son and Penrith’s star player Nathan Cleary has defended his father and insisted that the Panthers still have a real chance at Premiership glory.
He said: “It is pretty hard to win a Premiership – I think anyone will tell you that. We are doing our best to get there and for every team that is obviously the goal, and it is no different for us. It is a tough mountain to climb, and we are doing our best to try and get there.
“We’re still on this journey and one loss doesn’t change that. We’re not changing anything, just knowing that we have to work harder and take our opportunities.”